Theatre Témoin: I wanted to explore was the individual stories of people who happened to be, among many other things, homeless, and crucially what was happening inside of their heads. And I think if I’m honest I wanted to better understand something I had seen in 2012 in a group of child-combatants-turned-poets who I worked with in Rwanda–the incredible relationship between poetic, creative, mythological thinking and the ability to bounce back from the darkest–for most of us unthinkable–traumas.
TT: At the risk of sounding pat, we don’t choose our subjects, they choose us. What we choose is stories, but the subject emerges from them. When we first began working with Grafted Cede Theatre on Nobody’s Home, what we knew we wanted to look at was The Odyssey. We looked at that, and we looked at the news items coming out about post traumatic stress disorder and the internal monsters our current soldiers were battling and the “subject” just became clear. Then we started working on a puppetry piece around the story of Bluebeard. At the time I happened to be working with two artists who both had bi-polar family members, and the story kept organically veering off track towards the story of a protagonist with bipolar disorder. The piece that emerged came so far away from the Bluebeard story that we ditched the original concept and renamed the piece “The Fantasist“. That “subject” chose us too, albeit in a very different way, because we didn’t actively choose it, at least not consciously.
TT: I think they run parallel and are complimentary but aren’t causally linked in anyway. I know a lot of stunning visual artists who couldn’t care less about social engagement, and know a lot of incredible socially engaged artists who have a very different theatrical language or approach to making work to ours. I think one benefit of a visually poetic approach is that it’s a fast-track to the realm of empathy, awe, and emotion. You can defamiliarise a “issue” by taking it out of the realm of language, where all of our entrenched understandings, defense mechanisms, and opinions tend to hide. Sometimes I struggle to talk and write about “social engagement through theatre” in a way that really articulates the work.
TT: month of watching theatre, and my Pleasance pass! Is that totally dorky? Five years ago it was the beer and burgers meeting the other artists, and of course I really still look forward to that, but it’s a marathon, this “career in the theatre” thing, and I find more and more that what gets me through the long hard days is that one show (out of 50, maybe), that really opens something, shows me a new possibility or insight or feeling. Without those shows I don’t think I’d see any point in carrying on making theatre. You have to be moved and changed by it sometimes, to have that experience, so you know that your theatre might just do that for someone else. Otherwise, what the heck is it all for?
TT: Because Jack has an amazing story. He’s lived epic things, which we have put on stage not to preach or teach, but just to share. Jack’s story is incredible, fantastical, and inspiring and who knows, it might just open something new in you.